There’s a bad moon rising and in its wake comes murder, mystery and mayhem.
This anthology included Satyajit Ray. Payal Dhar, Anshumani Ruddra, Sonja Chandrachud, Poile Sengupta – some of India’s best storytellers – and tales guaranteed to keep you awake through the night.
A writer whose murder stories begin to come true; the polite young man who steals far more than money; the half-werewolf, half-witch who murders music in the land of the dead; an apartment where doorbells ring at night for no apparent reason; and the case of the missing Bollywood actress are some of the hair-raising stories that are impossible to put down. Ranging from murder to the supernatural to the all – too chillingly real, Bad Moon Rising will make you lock your doors and shut all the windows…
As you are going to be reading a whole bunch of mystery stories in this book, let me clue you in and brief you so you can have a crack at solving the cases, as you read about them. Ah, yes, and there’s plenty of juicy stuff here to ponder over . . . It may be hair-raising happenings with children and wolves; mysterious robberies in housing colonies just like yours; famous actresses who walk into the sea, phantom musicians indulging in murder, a writer’s bad stories turning around to bite him; mysterious, menacing doorbell ringers and issues where good is evil and the revolting is not and several other such eerie, puzzling matters . . . But first of all, we need to thank the writers in this book for having scratched their heads and chewed their nails in order to provide you with this collection of cracking puzzles . . . And especially because, let me assure you, it’s often more fun reading a mystery story rather than writing one, simply because when you write one you usually know ‘who’s dunnit’ right from the beginning!
So how do mystery writers go about writing their brain- teasing stories? Naturally the first thing you need for such a story is a crime or puzzle; any crime that needs investigating. Then you need a motive, why was the crime committed and why was the victim chosen? And of course, you need suspects: who could possibly have done it, did he or she have a motive, and importantly, did he or she have the opportunity to commit the crime? Usually, several suspects will emerge. The investigator has to, by process of elimination after questioning and examining the characters and clues (usually thin on the ground), figure out who the most likely suspect is.
At this point usually something happens; the crime is repeated or another crime is committed. (This keeps the excitement going). This may either absolve the original suspect (who might be the victim of the second crime) or point more strongly towards him or her. More investigations follow as clues are chased up and events are verified and alibis checked out. And then, in some seemingly innocuous conversation or event that gives the game away, light will dawn on the detective . . . He or she will gather all concerned and explain how he or she has solved the case, and the criminal will be apprehended.
Naturally it’s not all straightforward; nothing is what it seems to be. So while reading a mystery story you have to watch out for: red herrings; that are false leads which point to suspects (often unpleasant characters) who are in the firing line until proved innocent at the end. Keep a hawk’s eye on benign or seemingly harmless, often nondescript characters, sometimes very likeable ones who are the most unlikely of suspects and who you may even think of as the hero or heroine; often they turn out to be the nasty pieces of work who have done the deed. Sometimes, there are two or more ‘prime’ suspects and one of them has to be eliminated by the process of deduction.
Now, the biggest trick in writing a successful mystery story is to present to the reader all the information required to solve the case, during the course of the story Only then will the reader slap him or herself on the forehead after the last chapter and exclaim, °But of course, what an idiot I was it’s clear as daylight? All the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle must be presented to the reader to put together and get the whole picture. It’s not fair; if at some late point, or usually when the detective gives his explanation, that a whole lot of new and very essential information is provided, which explains the crime. A clever mystery writer will hide the vital bits of information like a tiger crouching in high grass conceals itself while hunting deer. It is there, the deer can look towards it, but they don’t see it! Another thing that lets a reader down is if the explanation is very outlandish. We know that absolutely weird things happen in real life—just read the newspapers-but when they happen in stories, we frown and sag ‘heck, big deal, that’s such a convenient explanation!’ and are unsatisfied.
One way of writing a mystery story is to actually write two parallel stories, each of which can explain the crime. So while reading, watch out for this, too. One story is highlighted; the other is usually like a shadow story—but turns out to be the relevant one. Another trick that writers use is to provide a lot of detail, descriptions of places and weather and seemingly unnecessary stuff, hidden in which might well be the key to the mystery So, you can’t really let your guard down; everything could be relevant, but of course only very little is.
As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s probably more fun reading a mystery story than writing one, simply because you know who ‘dunnit’ is. But you have to work backwards in a sense: while you know who did it and why and how, you’ve got to provide all the clues and information correctly to the last detail so that you have a watertight story (and also, all the red herrings!). One exciting and experimental way of making a mystery story seem very real, is to as usual have one main suspect, who usually everyone, including you, dislikes. And then, right at the end, you turn the tables and point your finger at someone else—the benign, innocent and ‘g0ody—good’ one, whose story you will End to your amazement often fits the bill, too! The only problem with this is that you, even as a writer, may actually like this character, and to turn him or her into a criminal at the end may seem shocking.
But that is exactly what will make your story more authentic and exciting. Because, like the reader, you had no idea, until the end, who the crook really was…
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